Written & Artwork by Mark McAlister
Ironic, in a way, that the year 2020 was a year that no one saw coming. Even those with a perfectly crafted vision for all that 2020 would hold, armed with plans to reach for the stars, climb corporate ladders, lay hold of brass rings and breakthrough glass ceilings. No one’s vision board, personal planning, or future forecasts could have possibly predicted the turbulence we would experience as a planet, a nation, a society; and the lasting imprint this rather “unchosen change” would leave in its wake.
I think I speak for most of the population when I say that it would be easy to feel ungrateful for the past 11 months. In fact not only would it be a natural response, it would also be logical, and to most people – perfectly reasonable. However, what I’ve realized upon further reflection, is that not everyone shares this same perspective. Specifically, my children.
As I sit in the new home-office that this year required from many of us, I can’t help but focus on my present circumstances. To be honest, my shoulder hurts from throwing the football with my oldest son, who went on to become the best player in his league this year. My desk is in disarray from hours of drawing with my middle son, who is far beyond where I was as an artist at 11 years old. My phone is filled with hours of video footage used to start my youngest son’s YouTube channel, a promise I kept putting off for pretty much all of 2019.
the only thing better than achieving my own goals, was helping the people I love achieve their own.
You see, when my children reflect on 2020, it will not be with bitterness, but with gratitude for the time that I was able to spend with them, for the memories made as we worked together to pursue their dreams, all while seemingly being deprived of pursuing my own. It wasn’t until somewhat recently that I realized that 2020 had not taken anything from me, but given me something so much greater. It showed me that the things I thought I wanted, weren’t the things I really wanted. It gave me the gift of understanding that the only thing better than achieving my own goals, was helping the people that I love achieve their own.
We’ve all used the confines of quarantine to find ways to pass the time, be it learning a new skill, doing projects around the house, or catching up on a decade or so of broken New Year’s Resolutions. All things that could easily distract you or me from seeing what was really happening: we were changing.
Quarantine became a crucible, and only under the extreme social and political conditions that came with the isolation and anxiety that it brought could the “impurities” of our society, and every individual that comprises it, rise to the surface. I will speak for myself when I say that I am grateful that 2020 has served to refine me in so many ways. First, I let go of what I thought I should want, the things our society valued and placed priority on, to discover what really did matter to me. Second, I learned to understand and embrace people with different political opinions than my own. Then, and possibly most importantly, I was awakened to my part in a deeply-seeded racial divide in our country, and chose to do something about it.
No one’s vision board, personal planning, or future forecasts could have possibly predicted the turbulence we would experience as a planet, a nation, a society; and the lasting imprint this rather “unchosen change” would leave in its wake.
They say that “hindsight is 20/20”; therefore, there was simply no way to see what 2020 was going to bring. But, if you look closer you will see through the 20/20 lenses that what blindsided us all in the beginning, was the very thing that would teach us to see. To see what was really essential to us all personally, to our nation, and to our global community. It’s my hope that, using this new found perspective, that we can re-examine the year that was, and find that everything we had to be grateful for, was there all along simply hiding in disguise.